Aerial Photos (and Fishing) – ABQ to Oakland & Oakland to San Diego, 3/12-18/2020

On March 12, when the US pandemic was just getting underway,  Kathy and I flew to Oakland, CA. We judged that the risk of contracting Covid 19 was still quite small. Not enough, in any case, to pass up, for me, a fishing trip with my son Ethan to Pyramid Lake, NV, and for Kathy to visit the grandkids (but check with me in a couple of weeks!).

This post will include not only the aerial photography that these flights made possible, but also scenery and fishing action from Pyramid Lake. The first photographic opportunity presented itself as we climbed out of Albuquerque. It was a cloud mass creeping over the Sandia Crest, and spilling down the western slope.

March 12

1.AlbSandiasCloudWave900P DSCN4863.jpg

View to the NE, of ABQ and the Sandia Mtns., with clouds creeping over the crest

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View to the N, of ABQ and Rio Rancho areas, the Rio Grande and the Jemez Mtns. in the distance

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View to the N, of the Rio Puerco

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View to the N, of lava flows (mesas) and volcanic necks, with Cabezon Pk. seen in upper left

It became cloudy and remained so all the way to Lake Mead, in Nevada.

5.LakeMead@VirginRiverArm900P DSCN4871.jpg

View to the N, of Lake Mead at the junction with the Virgin River arm. The main body of the lake extends out of the picture to the left and right, with down lake to the left.


View to the N, of Lake Mead at Callville Bay, with down lake to the left.

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View to the N, of Stonewall Mtn., NV

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View to the N, of settling ponds at Silver Peak Mine, NV. I’ve shown this site before, but more as an abstract composition.

We left Nevada and crossed over the White Mtns.

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View to the NE, of the White Mtns.

Then it was over Yosemite, with some fabulous views.

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View to the NE, with the Cathedral Range just below. Its high point, Mt. Lyell, is hidden by clouds. The Tioga Rd. travels east through Tuolomne and Dana Meadows, crosses over Tioga Pass and then descends to Mono Lake.

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View to the N, of  Tuolomne Meadows and, in the foreground, the Cathedral Range

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View to the N, centered on Cathedral Peak

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A closer view to the N, again centered on Cathedral Pk.

Continuing to the west, we flew close to Tenaya Lake, May Lake and Mt. Hoffman.

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View to the NE. The famous view point on the Tioga Rd., Olmstedt Point, is seen in lower right. I hiked to May Lake this fall:

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View to the N. The high peaks that make up Yosemite’s northern boundary are hidden by cloud.

After our arrival in Oakland, I dropped Kathy off with her daughter Laina and family in Alameda, and then continued to Ethan’s home, in Penngrove (Sonoma County). Ethan and I left for Pyramid Lake around 2 PM, via Donner Summit and Reno. We ate supper at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, SK Noodle, in Sparks, and continued to the lake, and our 5th wheel lodging at Sutcliffe.

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The author, at SK Noodle, Sparks, NV (photo Ethan Miller)

March 13

15.2 E&I in 5th Wheel 900P 0283.jpg

Having breakfast in the 5th wheel,  at Crosby’s Resort, in Sutcliffe. Since Ethan is doing “paleo”, the breakfast consisted of  steak, eggs, tomatoes and more. Yum! (photo Ethan Miller)

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Ethan, on the deck of the 5th wheel, at Crosby’s Resort, in Sutcliffe

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View to the E, from Crosby’s. The lake’s namesake, the pyramid, is seen directly across the lake.

On this first day, we were anxious to revisit Monument Beach, which, due to a washout, had been inaccessible for a couple of years. The one guy we found there left after a short while, and we had the place to ourselves. The weather was glorious!

16.3 Chairs900P 0295.jpg

Our chairs, along with a Thermos of coffee (laced with Irish cream) and a bottle of Red Label (photo Ethan Miller)

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Sitting on the lakeshore was very agreeable (photo Ethan Miller)

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… but happiness is being waist-deep in Pyramid Lake!

It took a while to connect. The lake had risen over 3′ since our last time at Monument, which made it difficult to locate the all-important drop-off. As to our choice of flies, rods and lines, the word was that indicator fishing with midge larvae was the best bet, and, although we both were of the opinion that stripping (retrieving) a wooly worm or bugger was the most reliable technique, we decided to each rig one rod for indicator fishing, and give it a go.

16.4 RodsReels#2 900P 0317.jpg

Our initial set-ups. On the left, two 9 wts. On the right, a 6 wt. and 9 wt. two-hander. The orange and pink things are strike indicators (i.e. bobbers). The blue thing is a flashy wooly worm, and the chartreuse/white fly is a foam beetle, which trailed the wooly worm (photo Ethan Miller).

16.5 RodsReels0316.jpg

The chartreuse/white fly is a foam beetle. The black fly is a balanced leech (photo Ethan Miller)

Using the 6 wt. rod (with floating line), I saw my indicator go under, and hooked and landed the fish. It had eaten a red midge larva, size #14. See movie below (movie by Ethan Miller).


The author, with a Lahontan cutthroat trout (photo Ethan Miller)

Then Ethan caught a nice one on a black balanced leech, using a 9 wt. rod (with floating line) and an indicator.

Ethan beaches his fish.

18.CutthroatEthanMonument900Pix P1000275.jpg

A beautifully-colored male Lahontan cutthroat

18.1 EthanFish900P 0292.jpg

Ethan, with a real beauty!

19.EthanMonument900Pix P1000276.jpg

We have the place to ourselves

19.2 PinnaclesEthan900P 0286

19.3 Pinnacles&LakeEthan0299

Two views to the north, with the group of tufa formations that are found along the north shore (photos by Ethan Miller)

19.4 LakeView900P 0307

19.5 MeFishingW.Clouds900P 0305

Two views to the south (photos by Ethan Miller)

The two fish seen above were all we caught this day, although I had a fish grab a surface “lake crab” pattern, which I was retrieving across a a glassy surface. But I didn’t hook him.

21.PyramidLakeTufaIsland#2 900P DSCN4900.jpg

Tufa island, at the northern end of the lake, from Monument Beach

21.PyramidLkTufaIsland900P DSCN4898.jpg

Same as above, with a different composition

21.2 RainArrives0300.jpg

A strange-looking rain cloud (I at first thought it was smoke) appeared in the afternoon (photo by Ethan Miller)

22.PyramidLakeTufaFormations900P DSCN4901.jpg

… and it was followed by a strong wind, which blew dust past the tufa formations, partially obscuring the formations that sat back from the shore

23.PyramidLakeTufaFormations#2 900P DSCN4902.jpg

same as above

24.PyramidLakeTufaFormations#3 900P DSCN4905.jpg

same as above

In the evening, the wind started up in earnest – enough to keep the 5th wheel rocking for the rest of the night. In the AM, we thought the conditions would be unfishable, and, with a big snowstorm arriving, we checked out of our accommodation one day early.

March 14

24.1 MeCrosbys0311.jpg

Checked-out at Crosby’s. They did not refund us for the third night we wouldn’t use. “Everyone always wants a refund when the wind starts blowing.”, they said (photo by Ethan Miller).

Of course we had to go see what was happening along the lake, and, it being Saturday, we found lots of people at Windless Bay. They were all on ladders and indicator fishing; many of them guided fishermen. The wind, however, was blowing at our backs, which made it possible to cast. But no one but some spin fishermen at the far end of the beach were catching fish.

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Rain sweeps across the lake

27.PyramidLakeRain900P DSCN4907.jpg

same as above

After a couple of fishless hours, and breaks for coffee, scotch and cold cuts, I got up out of my chair and announced that I would catch a fish within 15 minutes. I rigged my 9 wt. two-hander with two wooly worms, and began to fish with a fast strip.

Bingo! A fish grabbed the black wooly worm. I landed him, and then another one after that. I missed a third strike. The fish were all right in front of me, cruising at around 6′ to 8′ depth.

25.1 MeFishWindless#2 900P 0319.jpg

No one else was catching fish. Behind me are the variety of ladders (most with seats) that the locals and guides use. The thing at my waist is a stripping basket, which keeps the retrieved line from sinking to the bottom (photo by Ethan Miller).

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My second fish. The fly seen here is credited with catching more fish than any other at Pyramid Lake. It’s a bushy, full-hackled black wooly worm, with a red tag.

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Ethan gets one on a flashy blue streamer (photo by Ethan Miller)

Then the fishing died. The fish, it appeared, had moved on. On the basis of our limited success, we concluded that these fishing conditions required that you keep your fly or flies in the water as much of the time as possible, while awaiting the infrequent arrival of a “platoon” of fish. Clearly, our persistence was awarded, as we had our flies in the water when the fish showed up. As to the question of which of the two – indicator fishing or retrieving a streamer – was the best strategy for putting your fly in front of a fish, I come down in favor of the latter. Since one had no way to determine, beforehand, the depth/distance from shore that the fish were traveling, retrieving seemed to give me the best chance to have my flies intercept a cruising fish. Indicator fishing, on the other hand, pretty much commits you to fishing at a particular depth – which might not be the depth that the fish were traveling in. And add to that, that a retrieved fly acts more life-like and, therefore, enticing to a fish.

We left in mid-afternoon and returned again to SK Noodle for an early dinner. We encountered our first highway department chain control not far uphill from Reno, and another one nearer Truckee. We were driving a AWD Ford Flex, which exempted us of the need for chains. The snow thickened as we climbed towards the summit, and came on full force as we passed over the top.

26 CarSnowstorm#1 900P 032327 CarSnowstorm#2 900P 0324

28 CarSnowstorm#3 900P 0325.jpg

It snowed to below 3000′ altitude on the western slope, down to where the grass was growing and the deciduous trees had leafed out, but the car proved capable in all the road conditions we encountered.

Back in the Bay Area

Day by day, the pandemic became a bigger menace, and argued that we cut our trip short. There was no traffic on 101, as I drove south towards Alameda. The flight to San Diego was empty. The flight path was new to me, and provided some fine scenery to photograph.

March 18

33.LakeSanAntonio900P DSCN4919.jpg

In the Coast Range, view to the E, of Lake San Antonio

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And right next to the above is Lake Nacimiento

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Next up is Paso Robles. View to the NE.

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Further south, we came over the mountains that contain the Sespe Wilderness, located E of Ojai. View to the E.

37.SespeArea?900P DSCN4927.jpg

same as above

38.SespeArea?900P DSCN4928.jpg

same as above

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This wider-angle view to the SE includes Palmdale in the distance, with Rt. 14 heading west (top center)

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Lake Piru is located at the southern edge of the mountains, view to the NE

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Simi Valley, view to the E. The red “X” marks the location of the home where my wife, Kathy, grew up.

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San Fernando Valley, view to the NE

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Los Angeles basin and San Gabriel Mtns.

The landing approach in San Diego offered great views of the city, which I have never visited. Views to the west.

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Looking across to the Naval Base

Due to continuous cloud cover, the connecting flight to Albuquerque provided no opportunities for photography. This ends the post.


About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes: 3. Four Cornered, the Land: 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: 5. Rio Marañon: 6. Rio Grande:
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